Keeping it Safe on the Road

New technologies help keep your trucks running safely and efficiently.

However, for fleet officials considering these technologies, Murray says everyone needs to be on board, starting at the top.

“If you’re going to fully realize the safety (return on investments) we’re seeing in our data—which can be substantial—you can’t just throw five of these on some trucks and send the guys out unprepared to manage the technology and benefit from it,” Murray says. “(Fleets need a) safety culture change that incorporates this quickly and takes advantage of the direct and indirect benefits—it stops accidents on the road and you redesign your driver training.”

Technology & Maintenance Council general chairman Darry Stuart, president of DWS Fleet Management, says because of the costs, smaller fleets are lagging behind larger ones in using these systems.

“For the large fleet, this is probably an investment they can afford, while the small carrier has a difficult time being able to justify and pay for additional sophistication on vehicles, even though it may be a smart thing,” Stuart says. “Then the middle guy, who does not have a high accident rate and therefore feels there is no justification other than additional expense, doesn’t see that as a good move forward.”


One of the more popular collision warning systems is the Cleveland, OH-based Eaton’s VORAD system, which has been out for about a decade. VORAD uses high-frequency radar to scan more than the length of a football field ahead of a truck, uses side sensors to check blind sides and can track vehicles around curves.

Eaton’s SmartCruise adaptive cruise control option lets drivers maintain a set distance by defueling the engine and engaging the engine retarder if necessary when a lead vehicle is slowing. Due to fleet demands, Eaton VORAD marketing manager Phil Warmbier says the latest version—the VS-400—comes standard with the option.

“Fleets assign a substantial cost savings with the VORAD system, especially early on because (the systems) are really a driver training tool,” Warmbier says. “The longer systems are on the trucks, the better the drivers become.”

Warmbier says the new system is much easier for technicians to install and maintain because it is incorporated into the J-1939 vehicle electronic standard.

“The codes are standard SAE codes that they can interpret and troubleshoot,” Wambier says. “The system is serviced through the exact same software we use on our heavy-duty automated transmissions, so it’s the same software they probably have in their shop today.”

The installation process is also significantly reduced.

“Where on the older system, the wiring harnesses may have challenged a technician; today it won’t,” Warmbier says.

Andrew Boyle, president of the Billerica, MA-based Boyle Transportation, says SmartCruise makes the VORAD system more efficient, though he recommended OEM installation to “avoid warranty problems and finger-pointing.” He says a majority of his drivers surveyed believe the system is a valuable tool for preventing collisions, as does he.

“I look at it as an investment to reduce the possibility of a catastrophic accident,” Boyle says.


Troy, MI-based Meritor WABCO’s Collision Mitigation System uses an anti-lock system to apply foundation brakes to avoid a frontal collision if the driver does not react quickly enough. Its cruise control mode provides a set distance to a vehicle in front by controlling the braking systems and provides several sets of warnings to alert drivers to collision dangers.

Meritor WABCO chief engineer Allan Korn says this new system—which remains in the “introductory” phase—blends collision warning, anti-lock braking and adaptive cruise control technologies to actively intervene if necessary.

“That’s what drivers would like and what fleet maintenance people want as well,” Korn says. “(With) just a warning system, by the time the system warns what has to happen and the driver has to react, that can take maybe a second or a second and a half. If you’re traveling at 60 miles an hour, you’ve traveled 88 feet before you get any reaction.”

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